Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

City & Regional Planning

First Advisor

Domenic Vitiello


Urban universities have long, often contentious, histories in neighborhoods, characterized by demolition, displacement, and expansion. Since the 1990s, however, they have become important players in urban revitalization. By adopting place-based identities, universities have directed their development expertise and resources into distressed areas, transforming them into amenity-rich assets. Yet, even as the media anoints universities the â??saviors of cities,â?? these interventions tend to deemphasize community priorities in favor of market demands. This dissertation uses mixed-methods to evaluate the outcomes of university interventions in neighborhood revitalization. It includes a national survey of university strategies, a quantitative assessment of neighborhood outcomes between 1990 and 2010, and three case studies (the University of Pennsylvania, University of Cincinnati, and Duke University) with â??typicalâ?? interventions, but differing approaches to community outreach. The national evidence confirms that university interventions are, in fact, improving neighborhoods. Institutions are leveraging their real estate expertise to generate development-driven revitalization and attract new populations. Using median home values and rents as proxies, these interventions are stimulating greater improvement in university neighborhoods than other areas in the same cities and counties. Further, the presence of a university intervention predicts a twenty percent increase in a neighborhoodâ??s relative median home value in 2010 over its 1990 value. The case study evidence identifies four interrelated factors that drive a universityâ??s intervention, including the consideration it gives to community development priorities. The revitalization factors extend to a universityâ??s core competencies, mission, leadership, and its institutional and neighborhood context. While the findings validate that university investments are catalyzing neighborhood change, they also suggest an inherent conflict between an institutionâ??s market-based interests and the communityâ??s priorities. As vested urban neighbors, however, universities do possess abundant resources and opportunities, in the form of diverse employment, purchasing and consumption of goods, innovation, and civic engagement, to overcome this conflict and support a wider range of community-sensitive strategies. Thus, the dissertation contends that planning policy should actively engage with universities to align place-based interests and pursue opportunities to supplement university investments with community-focused efforts, thereby generating mutually beneficial outcomes for town and gown.

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